Autumn is a great time for Swan spotting. It's the
time when wild swans arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland and the Arctic
tundra. Look to the skies and watch their arrival in mid October and November.
good time! Image: RSPB Images and Sue Tranter|
of the Whoopers come from Iceland and are capable of making the 600 mile flight
in a single journey.
These are referred to as wild swans to differentiate
them from the resident Mute Swans in Britain.
places for Swan spotting
Reserve (Norfolk), Lough
Foyle (Northern Ireland) and Ouse
Also worth a visit: Caerlaverock
(Solway Firth), Abbotsbury
(The Fleet), Martin
Mere (Lancashire), Lough
Neagh (Northern Ireland) and Slimbridge
There are several different types of swan in the British
Isles which can be easily identified.
Swans are the smallest and rarest of the three species of wild swan found in the
This swan is more goose-like in shape,
has a shorter neck and a more rounded yellow and variable bill compared with the
Swans are bigger than the Bewick's Swan and are distinguished by their noisy 'whoop
The Whooper can also be identified
by the large triangular yellow wedge on its bill.
Swans can be seen year round in the UK. They have a distinctive long S-shaped
They are mostly silent - hence the name
- but in flight the wings make a lovely 'whau-whau' sound.
Mute Swans have orange bills whilst Bewick's and Whoopers have black beaks, with
some orange patterns.
Swan spotting - top
* Timing is important.
Whooper Swans start heading to the British Isles around mid October to mid November.
Listen out for the distinctive whoop and honking sound made by Whooper Swans.
When visiting a nature reserve with wild swans, scan the neighbouring fields.
The swans will often fly into the fields during the day to feed on stubble or
sugar beet tops. They return in the early evening, gliding in for an unforgettable
wildlife spectacle at dusk.
* Watch carefully when Whooper Swans are feeding
in the late afternoon. When they are ready for the off, their heads will go up
and down frenetically, a signal that they are about to fly.
* Check out
special swan watching events. Many bird reserves run swan feeding sessions. At
Welney in Norfolk this takes place during the late afternoon and early evening
when they turn the floodlights on for a feeding spectacle.
Swans are most commonly found in wetland areas, estuaries and close to waterways.
Whooper Swans are most commonly found in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern
England and East Anglia.
* Bewick Swans
arrive in Britain in mid-October following their breeding season in Siberia. The
best areas to find them are East England, the Severn estuary, Lancashire (Martin
Mere) and Slimbridge.
* Mute Swans can be seen
widely across the British Isles where there are shallow lakes and slow-flowing
rivers. Often to be spotted in urban parks.
Image of group of swans courtesy and copyright
of David Featherbe and Welney WWT.
Small Swan image copyright of RSPB Images,
Sue Tranter, Chris Gomersall and Mike Richards. Pair of Whoopers courtesy of Caerlaverock